From Student To Midwife – The Second Year

 

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For most university students your Summer holidays probably started back at beginning of June, maybe you’ve been on a few holidays or you’re just lounging around  at your parents house enjoying the freedom Well spare a thought for student midwives who are still working super hard on full time placements and trying to revise for their end of year exams. Ailish is back and she’s almost finished her second year of training. Here she shares her thoughts on the past year and how she’s developing her knowledge and skills into midwifery practice.

“I am finally at the end of my second year as a student midwife! It’s been a tough one, I’m not gonna lie. I look back on my previous post about life as a first year and wonder what the hell I had to stress about. Who did I think I was?! I envy first year me. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a walk in the park. The unknown was terrifying, the life juggling was challenging and the workload was demanding.

But then second year came and smacked me in the face.

It’s been full of ups and downs. My grandad died during the summer holidays and on my first day back on placement as a second year I was sobbing on my mentor and using my sleeve as a tissue. Deffo not the triumphant return I had envisaged!

I wasn’t going to mention it but then Clemmie (mentor, midwife, mum and blogger extraordinaire) posted this (http://motherofalllists.com/2015/07/28/anxiety-is-a-bitch/) on her Facebook and I thought why not. I’ve always been a tad anxious but this year it all went a bit haywire. I don’t know what it was – grief maybe. But suddenly it was all I could think of – I worried about getting off the bus, where I would sit in lecture, if my four year old’s temperature was really smallpox masquerading as a cold. Most of all, I suddenly felt the responsibility of being a midwife very keenly.  The fear and doubt was overwhelming and there were points where I seriously considered leaving the course. But I didn’t! I got support, dropkicked that anxiety in the balls and am now technically a third year. So let’s do a breakdown:

First term – I’m pretty sure everyone had learnt their lesson the year before and did not attempt to partake in any Fresher’s activities this time around. Second year theme was medical complexities and emergencies. Alongside midwifery placements we were also to spend time on theatre and gynae – a minimum of 90 hours on each is required to gain qualification. When you begin studying midwifery, there is a thing which becomes as precious as your first born. Much like with a baby, you will spend hours gazing at it. You will cradle it, ensuring it can’t come to any harm. It will overwhelm you, excite you, frustrate you – and some days you just will not have a clue. I am of course talking about the Midwifery Practice Document. The MPD. This document includes a record of every woman you’ve cared for, every baby you’ve delivered, and every hour you’ve worked. It also contains a hefty set of skills which you need to have signed off each year to continue on the course.

Hey man, no sweat – I did this before, I can do it again! But wait… remember how you have 180 hours less time to do it this year because of theatre and gynae? Oh. Oh yea. Shit.

Second term –. Lectures and lab time were interesting and alarming in equal measures. Continuity projects started – this is essentially where as a student you caseload your own women and write a reflective portfolio on the experience. It’s a really cool opportunity to connect with women and build confidence as an independent practitioner. Alongside this, medical complexities gave insight in to caring for high risk women, whilst emergencies allowed us to simulate crisis situations. As terrifying as it was, it helped massively in placement to put together why we do the things we do. As a first year, it felt more about knowing HOW to do things – how to take a blood pressure, how to document, how to palpate. Whereas in second year it was about merging the how with the WHY. Why do I need to know if a woman’s BP is steadily rising antenatally? Pre-eclampsia. Why does documentation need to be accurate and contemporaneous? Legality and continuity. Why is it important to palpate? To assess growth, lie, presentation and plan ahead for labour care.

Things started to merge and it felt like everything was clicking a bit more in to place. There were still shifts where I cried, but there were more where I actually felt like “I can do this! I could probably do this as a real, money paying job and not mess it up!”

Final term – No I couldn’t, no no no no. OSCE stress set in. OSCEs basically involve standing in front of two expressionless examiners and pretending you know how to handle a postpartum haemorrhage – they are SCARY. It is like a French oral exam with a tiny tears doll you could potentially kill. I have simulated neonatal resuscitation, vaginal breech birth and shoulder dystocia on my boyfriend, aunty and four year old. I have pretended my nanny has gestational diabetes and my mum has sepsis. Things got intense. BUT…whilst mentally flogging myself for not choosing an easier career I have simultaneously had the most amazing moments of my life. I have delivered babies. I have connected with women and families. I have helped dads change their son’s first nappy. I have supported mums to breastfeed their daughter for the first time. I have lived through four long shifts in a row!!!

I’ve survived second year. I’m on my summer holidays right now and I have spent the first 5 days of it playing in the park, watching Pixar movies, baking and building forts with my kid. I’ve worked 740 hours, signed off thirty skills, delivered twenty two babies, passed three exams, wrote two essays, and doubted myself countless times. I cannot wait to start my final year.”

Birth Story of The Week – Lizzie and William

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Since I was younger I’ve always loved babies and been fascinated by the wonder that is pregnancy and labour. If anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d always said a midwife and now i feel so so lucky to have experienced for myself such a wonderful pregnancy and to have our own beautiful baby boy.

William is a bit of a miracle baby.  I’ve never had regular periods (make that 2 in 2 years prior to getting pregnant) and had been diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome many years ago, so i was always apprehensive about how easy it would be to conceive naturally. Despite only just starting to “try”, I had conversations with the GP to explore options for help with natural conception, expecting it to take a while. However, Matt and I were so lucky to fall pregnant with William within about 3 months, and feel truly blessed!   Anyway, this isn’t a conception story but a birth, so ill get on with that….

My due date came and went without too much activity.  My Mum had me 3 weeks early, so in the back of my mind I was hoping that my final few weeks of back ache and what i then thought were sleepless nights of pregnancy (little did i know about real sleepless nights!!) would have been cut short.  However, my first twinges of real labour started when i was just over 41 weeks.  I’d had period type pains all week but then after my second sweep, where the midwife confirmed I was 2cm dilated, we had a little family drama which I think kick started my contractions. My sister was stuck without her car at the last minute, so called me to ask me if I could pick up her little girls from nursery. I was out at the time, so had to do my best attempt at running home (at 9+ months pregnant this is a challenge!) to pick up the car and then I drove like a racing car driver to the nursery, over what felt like endless roads of speed bumps! By the time i picked up my nieces and got home, surges were coming every 10 minutes.

This was on the Thursday.  I waited a couple of hours before believing that anything was really happened but then called my husband Matt to come home from work later that afternoon.  The surges continued and i paced the house with my hypnobirthing affirmations playing to help me keep as relaxed as possible. I tried my best to suppress the feelings on adrenalin that I knew would slow things down, but deep down I was so blooming excited that we were on the journey to meet our baby. I continued to pace up and down the length of the house, waiting for the surges to get more frequent and more painful, but it never happened.  I text my lovely midwife Mary before we went to bed that night and she was on standby ready to jump at my telephone call. We went to bed that night with everything ready, expecting that we’d be awoken in the night by me in established labour. Frustratingly, it just didn’t happen.

On Friday i already had a third sweep booked, so went ahead with that, hoping it would again kick everything into action. I knew I should be patient and let the baby arrive in its natural time, but was beginning to lose my patience. Mary confirmed i was 3 cm dilated and really helped to bring me back to reality and suggested Matt and i forget about the very erratic contractions and go out for lunch to take our minds off what was happening. This was the such good advice. In my head I’d been going a bit mad worrying I was faking the surges and getting frustrated by not knowing if they were the ‘real thing’ or not.  Matt and I walked to East Dulwich to get some lunch and the contractions started again, this time even stronger.  Still completely irregular though and by the time we got home  they had petered out completely.  So again, we went to bed on that Friday night expecting a middle of the night trip to Kings.   Again, it didn’t happen! Throughout Thursday and Friday I’d been listening to my hypnobirthing tracks which really helped to get me through the duration. Although I knew I should be patient and wait for my body and the baby to be ready for labour, after almost 48hrs of surges my body was tiring and I was getting impatient about meeting our baby.

By Saturday morning i was 41+3 and really ready to get some reassurance by delivering a healthy baby.  At this point in pregnancy, not only was I tired and frustrated at not knowing when or how labour would get started but also worrying that something could happen to the baby before I was able to deliver it safely. I’m sure it’s normal for all Mummy’s to be to have the same worries, but because I’d never really believed my body would be able to get pregnant naturally, I always had concerns in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t work out.

After talking to Mary on the Saturday morning, we agreed that I would go into King’s hospital to get my waters broken, in the hope of it getting the labour going. A big part of my decision making was that I knew my lovely midwife Mary was working that weekend, so if I waited any longer she’d potentially not be around to deliver my baby. Having had Mary visit throughout my pregnancy, Matt and I trusted her implicitly so we really wanted her there to support us through the main event.  On the way to King’s, Matt and I stopped at the supermarket and stocked up on a picnic we planned to have at the hospital whilst we waited for what we thought would be a long drawn out labour to begin.  Little did we know what was going to happen in the few hours ahead.

We were taken into a triage room in the Labour ward and an Agency midwife introduced herself and started some checks on me. The usual, blood pressure, pulse and the baby’s heart beat. Being an Agency midwife, the poor lady wasn’t used to the machines at King’s and she couldn’t find our baby’s heart beat, despite two attempts on different machines. Obviously this is the last thing you need as parents to be, however, thankfully she got it, third time lucky.

The doctor came to break my waters at 11:45 and suggested Matt and I go for a walk in the corridors and walk the stairs sideways, in an attempt to get labour moving. I began to get dressed, with Matt and I deliberating on my outfit of a nightie and big furry Ugg boots. We needn’t have worried. By midday, 15 minutes later, surges were coming every 3.5 minutes. And they were strong! Who knows if the ones at home were real, but these were very different and I knew that this was really it.

The midwife could see things were progressing quickly, so we put on the TENS machine and I was given gas and air to use whilst taking deep slow brwaths. We also made sure the hypnobirthing tracks were playing loud and clear. At this stage I wasn’t really listening to the words in the hypnobirthing, but having listened so intently throughout my pregnancy, the music was so recognisable as relaxing that I didn’t even need to hear what was being said, to experience the calming result.

After 2 hours in the labour ward I was getting nervous that Mary hadn’t arrived yet and that we hadn’t made it to the Midwifery led unit.  I know you’re always told in pregnancy to keep an open mind about your birth plan, and although I thought I had, but at this point I knew that the birthing pool was what i wanted, and I was adamant that it would be the best place for me and our baby to get through the afternoon.

Just after 2pm Mary arrived and I waddled around to the Midwifery led unit, panicking about whether I’d get there in time before the next contraction, and in time to get on the gas and air.   We made it to the Woodland suit, wallpapered with a lavender field, and the midwives immediately started filling the pool. I tried kneeling and using the beanbags during contractions, but couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, I was allowed in the pool and it immediately felt amazing to have the weight taken off me and have the support and comfort of the warm water.

In the water I had a good set up, with a flannel on the side to rest my head, hypnobirthing affirmations playing and Matt to hold my hand. I didn’t go through one contraction after that point without holding Matt’s hand and really needed that support through every one, knowing he was there for us both.

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Contractions didn’t really get painful as the afternoon progressed but occasionally my body convulsed and it automatically started pushing.  I had no idea that this would happen in labour. It was like a gagging reflex and completely took over my body (without causing pain) and I really enjoyed that feeling of my body being in control and working for me to get the baby on its way out. This felt like real progress! I could feel the pressure getting lower and lower and Mary examined me in the pool and I was 7-8cm. When Mary told me this I was proud of getting this far but knew the dreaded ‘transition’ was still to come. Luckily I don’t think I was effected by transition. I remember sobbing a little and thinking in my head ‘maybe I should have got an epidural’ but I didn’t ever say it out loud and knew deep down that what was happening was totally manageable and I could deliver the baby myself.

What felt like very soon after that examination the reflex pushing feelings got stronger and I said I could feel something much lower. Mary and Erica (the student midwife) used a mirror in the pool every time I had a contraction to check on progress and it was amazing when they started to see the baby crowning. At first Erica said she could see ‘something’ floating in the pool and it took her a while to realise this was our baby’s thick head of hair starting to appear! According to my notes, the second phase of labour was 36 minutes and this flew by. Although it’s a bit uncomfortable and I was nervous of any damage, I didn’t find this bit as painful as is expected. I’m sure the water helps but the fact that I knew it was productive pain and that the baby was so close, made it so much more manageable. I remember feeling the baby’s head deliver and Mary and Erica guiding me through little pushes to get its chin out. The head was now free and I just had one more push to meet our baby. At this point I couldn’t really feel contractions (that may have been the amount of gas and air I’d taken!!) but just pushed when I was ready to fully deliver our baby at 4:16pm.

I’d watched One born every minute repeatedly throughout pregnancy and cried at every scene when a Mummy was first given their baby to hold. Needless to say, I burst into tears as soon as I had our little baby in our arms. It might sound ridiculous given I’d had 9 months to get ready for it, but I was in shock that I’d actually created and delivered a healthy baby and completely overwhelmed. I kissed and cuddled the blue and slippery baby in the pool, whilst Matt reached over to stroke and kiss us both too. We were both in shock and in love! After over a minute Mary said ‘aren’t you going to check the sex?’.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind, despite months and months of guessing girl or boy throughout pregnancy. As soon as the baby was born all I cared about was that it was healthy. Unbelievably when I did check, we couldn’t believe it to find out it was a boy? Throughout my pregnancy, everyone had guessed my bump as a ‘girl bump’ and having 5 nieces we were pretty sure we were having a girl, so to have a boy in my arms doubled the surprise factor and was even more special.

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After 7 minutes of delayed cord clamping, Matt cut the cord and took our baby boy for skin on skin with him whilst I delivered the placenta. Luckily it came away easily and was a doddle to deliver, in comparison!

I was completely shaky  and overwhelmed at this point as was helped out of the bath and onto the bed, where Matt lay with our baby. We immediately lay him on my chest and let our baby naturally root for his first feed. The midwives were amazing at helping me to feed and checking me over and I was in a really good place thankfully. They suggested we could go home that evening and when they first said it, I was still in a state of shock and overwhelmed by the previous 4 hours, so asked to hold off making a decision at that point. On reflection however, I am so happy we did go home.  We’d already decided on our final baby boy and baby girl names, so didn’t need to deliberate when we named him William Matthew Hunter Hammond. We made some phone calls to our parents in the bed in hospital and the midwives and Matt tried to force me to eat something, having not eaten since breakfast. It was the last thing I wanted but I managed to stomach something as knew I wouldn’t be allowed home if I didn’t.

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By 7:30pm we were discharged from hospital and I was wheeled down to the exit with our baby boy in my arms. I felt like royalty, with everyone smiling and congratulating me in the corridors. We sat William in the car seat and I sat in the back of the car with him for our journey home. It was unbelievable that only 8hrs before, we’d been walking up to the entrance of the hospital with our picnic expecting a long afternoon ahead. And now we were driving away as a family of 3.

When we got home Matt and I looked at each other and at our baby in disbelief. How could something so amazing have been growing in my tummy? We were in love immediately and if it’s possible, are in even more love with him today. In the first few days at home Matt and I were so overwhelmed with how adorable William is and occasionally caught each other cuddling him and crying of happiness whilst we looked into little face. The feeling of love as a Mummy is so incredible. I didn’t realise how intense and immediate the feelings would be, but William is the most precious and amazing thing in my life and I really do have an overwhelming maternal instinct to look after him and keep him safe and loved forever and ever. I just hope I have the same feeling as he grows into his terrible twos and teenage years!

You can read about Lizzie’s adventures with William over at Maternity Leave Life.

15 Weeks…..

Always match your nails to your dress

Always match your nails to your dress

And not counting. But it’s hard not to isn’t it? I’m just rejoicing in the fact that I don’t feel sick any more. I’m still completely terrified that it will come back and haunt me and I hear it can rear it’s ugly head again in the 3rd trimester but lets not speculate shall we.

The bump is well and truly out there’s no hiding it now, I’ve bought a few essential maternity clothes including black TopShop dungarees, skinny jeans, a pink shirt and a dress from ASOS for my best friends wedding tomorrow. I’m trying not to buy too much and will just see what I can use in my already expanding wardrobe through the Autumn and Winter months. I met my good friend and amazing fashion guru Zoe from Dress Like a Mum  yesterday for lunch and she gave me some great ideas for dressing the bump without breaking the bank. Do check her website out for brilliant fashion tips pre and post baby.

I’ve already been inundated with questions, usually the same 4 each time

  1. Was it IVF?
  2. Are there twins in the family?
  3. Are they identical?
  4. Will you find out the sex?

No, no, no, yes probably. I too have been guilty in the past of asking these same questions to other twin mums so I’m fully prepared for this up until the babies are 18.

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I’m still tired most of the time, I’ve been drinking Spatone in a glass of orange juice every morning but I’m also taking 3 iron tablets a week just to keep my levels up as you’re more likely to be iron deficient with twins. The round ligament pain at night seems to have eased up thank god, it was so painful I thought I was going into labour! I know the hormone relaxin will be working wonders for labour but my pelvis is not too grateful at the moment. But I’m trying not too moan about any aches and pains as I know it will only get worse.

Swotting up

Swotting up

I had a great first meeting with my consultant this week, we talked about my birth preferences and my wishes to use water for labour. She was really supportive and I left feeling positive and empowered. Right now I’m just focussing on the now as being a midwife I know a bit too much. My amazing colleagues are taking good care of me and I’m trying to get as much of my book written as possible before the twins arrive.

So that’s all from me, keep the birth stories coming you can email them to gasandairblog@gmail.com photos too please!

Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Betsy

In light of the Guardian’s story on hypnobirthing and it’s ever increasing popularity, today’s birth story from Jo describes how learning the techniques taught on her hypnobirthing course helped her overcome her fears from her previous traumatic birth, Tissues at the ready!

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My first daughter’s birth in 2012 didn’t exactly go to plan. I read all the books, did NCT, talked to friends and wrote my birth plan. Not once did I prepare for not being in control or for an emergency caesarean. I was left pretty shell shocked and it took me a while to get my shit together. I felt a bit like I had failed at the most important thing in my life. But I focused on the fact my beautiful daughter was fine and healthy. And I vowed never to do it again. Birth that is.

When I discovered I was pregnant again in May 2014 all the fears I’d stuffed to the back of my mind came back to life. I felt terrified and hated the thought of going through it all again. I spoke to my friend and midwife Clemmie at length about my worries. She knew how traumatic it had been first time round but right from our first conversation about it she said it would be different this time. I trusted her – she’s a wonder woman birth warrior, and my friend after all.
 
I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I had felt like I’d failed first time round, even though I’d gone through a long and hard labour resulting in caesarean, it somehow didn’t count as giving birth. Just because I didn’t push the baby out the usual way, I hadn’t done it ‘properly’. What does that say about the pressure on women surrounding birth?!
 
Clemmie suggested hypnobirthing and put us in contact with the lovely Hollie at London Hypnobirthing. We booked on to a course in October (my EDD was early January). I thought we’d probably be experiencing a few ‘and you’re back in the room’ moments but I was willing to give anything a shot. I spent the time busying myself with my stressful job and looking after a 2 and a half year old. I also fretted furiously about how the baby would fit into our family, and our house, and would I love it as much as my daughter? Was that possible? And all the other hormonal things that go round a pregnant woman’s head.
 
So October came and we started a loft conversion (wtf were we thinking?) and our hypnobirthing course. Right from the first session I felt differently. We learnt relaxation techniques and did breathing activities. We discussed birth in a safe and calm environment. There were only four couples and it felt very relaxed and intimate. My husband Tom was sold straight away, he took to it immediately. There was no hippy dippy stuff, just normal people looking to learn ways to relax and welcome their babies in a calm way without fear. We watched videos of births that were so calm the babies were born asleep! We did some work on releasing fear which helped the two of us talk honestly about the things we were worried about to do with the birth. Turned out our fears were identical. One of the fundamental things I took from the course was the belief that I had every right for my voice to be heard and that I could birth this baby the way I wanted.
 
Over the next few weeks I began to feel really quite excited about the birth and looked forward to meeting our baby. Something I never thought I’d do. One thing I wasn’t excited about was the endless builders coming and going from our house. Don’t do a loft conversion while you’re pregnant!
 
I was determined that our little girl had Christmas without the new baby stealing the show, plus Clemmie was going away for a couple of days so I told the baby to stay put and went about enjoying Christmas. I got quite emotional towards the end of my pregnancy and every day with my daughter felt significant. Our last days as a three. I’m ridiculously sentimental at the best of times but this was off the scale! It got to the point where Tom banned me from looking at baby pictures and videos of my daughter because I kept making myself cry…
 
I’d bought a soft doll to leave for my daughter if she woke up one morning and I wasn’t there (as in gone to have the baby…). I left it until the Saturday on the last weekend of the school holidays to wrap it up and wrote her an extremely soppy card (for someone to read to her). Tom said gloomily, “looks like I’m going back to work on Monday then” and we went to bed. I knew I was ready so the baby could come when it wanted.
 
At 4am I woke with mild period pain. This time round I completely and utterly trusted my instincts, I knew this was it. I put my relaxation mp3 on and closed my eyes. I must have gone back to sleep because at 6 I woke and realised the surges (hypnobirthing speak for contractions) had started. I woke Tom and told him to call his parents to come and get our daughter. Considering they were on high alert and live ten minutes away it seemed like it took them forever to get to us! My daughter woke up and I got her dressed, gave her a million hugs, packed her a bag and ended up opening her present with her. My hormones got the better of me and I was holding back some serious tears. When she left the house at 8 the surges instantly got a whole lot stronger.

I had a bath and Tom texted Clemmie. I think she got to us about 10am and at that point the surges were quite strong but I was breathing through them and feeling fine. I could feel adrenaline running through me and I was trying to stay relaxed. During Hypnobirthing we learnt about how adrenaline can slow labour or stop it altogether. I really didn’t want that to happen. Our second midwife arrived and was instantly warm and supportive.

When Clemmie examined me at 11am she said I was fully dilated! I couldn’t believe that I’d got to 10 without any difficulty. It gave me a massive massive boost. Tom and both midwives started gathering towels and bin bags and began to prep our bedroom for a birth. There was a bin bag underneath me and Tom was getting ready to catch our baby! Obviously not in the bin bag… I couldn’t believe I might even have a home birth! This would have exceeded our wildest expectations. As the surges intensified I started to push. All the while we were eating a lot of jelly babies (a good birth bag addition).
 
After a little while of pushing time seemed to stop, as did the contractions. So I was off the bed and walking around the house. Some of the things you can try if contractions stop are, walking, nipple tweaking, relaxing, laughing but nothing would get them going. And the longer they stopped the more anxious I became. Not because this had happened during my first birth, it hadn’t, but because I could feel myself getting more and more tense and frightened that things might not go to plan.
 
Eventually Clemmie and our other midwife said that it might be a good idea to go into hospital to be assessed to see if we could get some help getting contractions going again. FYI if you have had a previous caesarean a doctor will want to assess you before giving you Syntocinon due to risk of scar rupture.
 
So off we went in an ambulance (that I didn’t even know was outside), no blue lights but I felt pretty disheartened. Tom and our second midwife were trying to keep my spirits up but I tried to concentrate on the relaxation mp3 on my phone and drown out all the distractions. We got to hospital about 1.30pm I think. The room was ready and Clemmie was there and she did everything she could to carry on the vibe from home. I had to have a scan so the doctors could assess whether the baby was in a good enough position for a realistic chance at VBAC. To my delight the baby was perfectly positioned and we were given the go ahead for the drip. So, with feet in stirrups, foetal monitor on and a mouth full of jelly babies we waited for the drip to kick in. Not the most dignified time of my life but I was buzzing with the thought I’d meet my baby soon and I think the scan really helped to reassure me that all was ok. 
 
I began to get pretty tired and hungry and I think adrenaline was pumping. I got the shakes but then the contractions started coming pretty quickly. For some reason which we still don’t know, I couldn’t feel a single one. I’d had no pain relief but I had to be told when a contraction was coming by Clemmie looking at the monitor and saying ‘right, go for it!’ and I would push my heart out. At one point she had a stern word with me and told me to use my voice and any swear words I could think of to help push the baby out.  I felt like we were an amazing team, working together to help and guide me and birth this baby.

Because it was taking a while the doctor (in consultation with the midwives) decided that it might be a good idea to use a kiwi (kind of suction cup) on the babies head to help it down the last bit. Attaching this was possibly the most painful part of the whole labour but was over in minutes.

With two big pushes the baby’s head finally came out and that is when I knew we’d done it. The little body followed soon after and Clemmie very quickly instructed the doctor to stand back and let Tom discover the sex and then tell me it was a little girl! Then Tom got to cut the cord. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually done it!!!!! And it was a girl too! I remember not quite believing what had happened. 
 
Our second amazing midwife had to swap with another amazing midwife and while paperwork was done and handover completed there was a little period of time I’ll never forget. This little person had come from me, I felt instantly connected, instantly knowing of her. She was mine! That is what I’d missed with my first birth. I’d felt so separate from the final event and the baby and Tom were taken out the room straight after the caesarean. Tom was so relieved everything was fine. He couldn’t quite believe it either!

Some wise woman found me a lasagne. It was honest to god the best thing I have ever eaten. Hospital lasagne.


I couldn’t thank Clemmie enough for her support. She and her colleagues had helped me achieve something I never thought I would. She said she’d come to me the next day and kissed me and my girl goodbye. 
 
The wonderful women got me ready to go to the ward. I was cleaned up and put in to my pjs and helped to the loo for my first wee. I just couldn’t stop smiling. I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her the beautiful baby girl snoozing on me had come out my vagina. My dad arrived with my sister, I told them this beautiful girl had come out my vagina. As I was wheeled to the ward, I told all the people in the lift that I’d just pushed this baby out my amazing vagina!! There was a lot of vagina praising going on. And then it was just the three of us in a cubicle, knowing that this little baby had always had a place in our family. We couldn’t wait for her to meet her amazing big sister. So Betsy Clementine met her big sister the following morning, and it was love at first sight.
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Expecting The Unexpected

A few months ago Charlotte Philby from Motherland asked me if I’d like to write a reflective piece about making the most life changing decision of my young life, having a baby at 23. Here I openly discuss the highs and lows of what it really feels like to be caught somewhere in the middle of motherhood – too old for the teenage groups but too young for NCT.

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Photo by Philippa James

“September 2006: My boyfriend and I had been living in our rented flat in Bristol for just six weeks when it happened. Like all couples who had just moved in together, we found ourselves doing the obligatory trip to Ikea. We wondered around staring at all the mock kitchens and bathrooms, fantasising of what we would like our own ‘dream home’ to look like. We took the short cut through the kids’ department, heading for the checkout, when it suddenly dawned on me. I was late. Like, really late. Whether it was the Ikea nursery equipment that jogged my memory or the overwhelming smell of Ikea meatballs that made me heave, I just knew there and then I was pregnant.

We had left university three months previously. My boyfriend had a degree in Business Management and was working in recruitment; I was a newly qualified midwife about to start my first job. We were doing what most 22 and 24 year olds would be doing… going out, having fun, planning our future together. It was just the start of our lives.

Once I did a test later that evening, my suspicions were confirmed. Two bright red lines standing side by side staring at me on that plastic stick. I felt devastated, and really angry. Devastated because I knew from that moment on, my life with this man who I was madly in love with was going to change forever. And angry because I thought we were being careful. As a newly qualified midwife I should have known better. I had to tell him, he knew something was wrong the moment I came out of the bathroom. He turned a ghastly shade of white, sat down and said ‘what do you want to do?’

I didn’t want to be pregnant but I didn’t want to make the decision not to be pregnant. It was eating us alive, this huge secret neither of us seemed able to face.

I had no idea, I didn’t want to make either decision, I didn’t want to be pregnant but I didn’t want to make the decision not to be pregnant. We carried on for another week, not really talking about it, acting as if everything was fine. But it was eating us alive, this huge secret neither of us seemed able to face. Until one evening I said “I’m going to see the girls” and walked out. The ‘girls’ were in their final year at uni and lived around the corner from us. He knew I would tell them, I needed someone else to know, to share this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The girls were amazing, they hugged me which is exactly what I needed; I don’t think since I had found out I was pregnant my boyfriend and I had hugged once. They all reassured me that whatever decision I made they would support me and be there for me. I suddenly didn’t feel so alone and was able to talk about it openly and honestly.

I booked an appointment at the Marie Stopes clinic for the following week, just to have something to aim towards. Not really knowing if I would even go, I think my boyfriend was relieved that I had made the decision and not him. In all honestly I hadn’t made any decision.

Two days before the appointment I started bleeding, quite heavily. I called my boyfriend from work and we went to the early pregnancy unit, a place where I had spent many weeks during my midwifery training. And here I was on the other side. I felt really guilty, I kept thinking ‘maybe the baby knows it wasn’t meant to be here so that’s why my body was trying to get rid of it’. I was being punished. We asked for the monitor to be turned around so we couldn’t see. We both felt it would be better that way. I had already decided I was having a miscarriage, so when the sonographer said the baby was still alive, I couldn’t believe it. My boyfriend and I just looked at each other, we were both crying.

We drove home via his parent’s house to tell them. I’ve never seen my boyfriend look so scared. There were more tears, lots of hugs and his Dad opened a bottle of champagne. It finally felt like we could celebrate this pregnancy, it also felt so surreal. We were going to be parents.

It took longer for my family to accept what was happening, I think they were more protective of me – their youngest daughter of three – but the decision was made. I asked my Mum to tell the extended family before we planned to spend Christmas together. I was already beginning to show by then and I didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward. I’m sure deep down they thought it was a bad idea and probably thought my boyfriend and I wouldn’t last. Not because we weren’t right for each other, but more realistically that the odds were stacked against us.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy, maybe being young helped. I continued to work 12-hour shifts on the labour ward right up until 37 weeks. I actually found being a midwife somewhat reassuring whilst pregnant. It made me feel totally normal, as I was surrounded by other pregnant women of all ages and background. I think that’s what I yearned for throughout this whole period: normality. I was a woman and my boyfriend and I were having a baby together.

We had some help with buying things for the baby from family; it’s funny looking back on that time as we hardly had any money yet it didn’t seem to matter. I was so focused on meeting our baby and making everything be OK.

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I went into labour five days after my estimated due date and gave birth in a midwife-led suite where I had been working prior to finishing for maternity leave. I had a natural birth with the help of some gas and air and lots of help from two amazing midwives and, of course, my wonderful boyfriend.

We moved to London six weeks after our daughter was born and my husband took a new job which meant he travelled to Holland four days a week, leaving me holding the baby. All my friends were living their lives to the max, living together in London, starting new jobs and earning their first real income since graduating. I felt so out of the loop, joining baby groups trying to meet other mums, but everyone was in their late 30’s and I never really felt like I fitted in – too old for the teenage groups but too young for NCT groups.

I longed for the life I should have been having as I watched my girlfriends having what seemed to be the best time of their lives, but on the other hand I adored my baby daughter so much I never wanted to contemplate her not being here. I almost felt that because I had made this huge decision to have a baby in my early twenties, I had to do it right and I should never appear to not be coping or enjoying it.

Eventually, I met a few great mums, who to this day I still consider some of my best friends. And it really is thanks to meeting these mums which have got me through some of the best and worst times of being a mother. It’s made me realise it doesn’t matter what age you are when you become a mum or how much money you’ve got in the bank, because we’re all in this together. Broken sleep, teething, weaning, potty training and toddler demands, we all know how amazing it feels one minute and how shit the next.

That baby girl turned 8 two months ago, we now have another daughter who is four and have just found out we’re expecting twins early next year! And I’m now proud to call my wonderful boyfriend my wonderful husband. If someone had told me I would be a married mother-of-two at the age of 30, I would have laughed in their face. But sometimes laughing in the face of it all is the only way to get through the weekly Sainsbury’s shop with two kids, scraping dried porridge off the ridiculously expensive wooden high chair you fell for buying because it looks nice, and the lack of sleep, which never gets any easier.

I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved. We certainly had doubts about the choices we made along the way, but we made choices that felt right at the time and we made them work. People often say having a baby changes your life no matter what. But weirdly for us we didn’t really have that life, we only had a year and a half together before our daughter was born. Maybe that made it easier somehow.”

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Check out who Motherland who featured Gas&Air in their best parenting blogs online!

Birth Story Of The Week- Clemmie and Woody

There’s always a special connection between people with the same name and this amazing Mama of two is certainly one to hang on to. I first met Clemmie through the powers of Instagram but she was on my radar for a long time after Hollie from London Hypnobirthing told me about this awesome ‘other’ Clemmie she had met and taught. Another Clemmie! Surely not but this Clemmie was as great as I had hoped. She lives in Peckham with her brood of boys (1 husband and dog included) and writes a brilliant blog Mother of All Lists. Here she shares her second sons birth story.

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My first labour was so terrible that I honestly thought my son, Bertie, would be an only child. Induction. Hyper-stimulation. Lots of blood-loss. Followed by an hour of panic attacks. Not ideal.

Cut to 13 months later and I’m pregnant again. The initial thrill of seeing that line appear soon gives way to a feeling of ‘shit’ I’ve got to give birth again.

I was determined to do things differently. After some obsessive googling I came across hypnobirthing. What a stroke of luck. A total game changer.

Our course at London Hypnobirthing was just brilliant. It forced me and my husband to discuss our fears, as well confirming home-birth was the way forward for us. After months doing breathing, visualizing and general prep, I felt ready, even a bit excited about my baby’s impending arrival.

That was until my due date came and went.

With every passing day the anxiety levels crept up. Flashbacks to being induced with my first were haunting me. I was convinced I was headed down the same road. Plus I’d had contractions on and off for days; it felt like my body was tricking me and it was driving me potty.

At 40+5 I sent Hollie, my hybnobirthing guru, a rambling email having a bit of a breakdown – even questioning my ability to go into labour naturally. She replied telling me to let go of the anxiety, to trust my body. IT WOULD HAPPEN.

She was right. The next day I had a sweep. Only in pregnancy are you so pleased to have someone stick their hand up you. Turns out I was already 3 cm dilated – woo hoo!

My midwife wished me fairwell. Deep down I think we both know we would be seeing each other soon. And that night I went to bed with a sneaky suspicion it was ‘game on’. But given the false starts and with the help of hypno I decided to get some sleep.

At 3.30 AM I was woken by a surge. It was definitely happening. No panic, No fuss. Just a real sense of knowing what needed to be done. With son number one safely dispatched to my sisters I got in the groove of labour. Which mainly meant being naked and eating Jaffa cakes. Oh and the midwife arrived.

There was a palaver with the birth pool. My husband had done a dry run, but crucially not a wet run – turns out the fitting couldn’t connect to our tap (funny in retrospect, not very zen at the time).

Eventually it was sorted. Once in the water I was able to breath through my surges. Don’t get me wrong it was hardcore. Exhausting. At the time I desperately wanted it to stop. But at no point did I feel worried or out of control. Instead I just focused on getting to the peak of the surge then down the other-side. “breathe in calm, breath out tension.”

Candles, chilled music (and yet more jaffa cakes), pool. All very lovely. But I was getting into a bit of a mental downward spiral, transition maybe, and found the darkness oppressive rather than safe.

My Midwife suggested that I might benefit from a change of scene.

Once upstairs the bright coolness of the bathroom felt like a new chapter.  No sooner had I taken a seat on the loo than I was hit by one almighty surge. Properly a case of ‘my body taking control’: I leapt-up, grabbed my husband in a strangle-hold for support, and out came baby’s head.

Then with the next surge Woodrow Victor Telford made his entrance into the world. He was born calmly and quietly with his waters in tact or ‘en caul’. Swiftly followed by my placenta, which convenient went into the toilet.

The relief was immense. I hadn’t been induced. I hadn’t used a scrap of pain relief. I hadn’t bled. Just a tiny tear that heeled naturally. And I wasn’t pregnant anymore!! I felt like the luckiest person alive.

Me and my new dude headed to bed. And that’s where we stayed for the rest of the day.

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When people ask me about my labour. I say it was everything I wanted it to be. A wonderful empowered experience that made me feel like super-woman, plus it got rid of all the demons from Bertie’s birth.

Even writing this now I want to do it all again. There really is no greater feeling than lying in your own bed at home, eating pizza, with your 4 hour old baby snoozing beside you.

Twinning is Winning

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At around 5 weeks pregnant I felt sick, really sick and really tired. We were in France at a friend’s wedding and I did my best impression of someone trying to pretend to be drunk. Which by the way is very difficult. (Oh and a drunk sweaty husband when you’re stone cold sober is soooo unattractive, you’d rather he slept on the sofa)

And there was so much gooey soft smelly cheese going around and an oyster bar at the wedding and endless champagne. But nausea and a hangover have very similar characteristics so I fooled the friends we were with for 4 days.

“It’s probably twins” a colleague said to me while I gagged at the smell of the coffee she was drinking. “Ha ha very funny” I thought, but somehow I couldn’t shake off this feeling that maybe it was. Maybe.

A few weeks later I had some heavy bleeding so went to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a quick reassurance scan. I had already convinced myself that I was probably having a miscarriage so prepared myself for missing my brothers 40th birthday the next day and felt remarkably calm about the whole thing.

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“You have two in there, and both have healthy strong heartbeats”. I was beyond shocked. I was naked from the waist down with my legs in those stirrup things and a long probe with a condom on it up my foof. Not the most dignified of positions to be in. There was swear words, and utter disbelief and then the tears came. I left clutching the scan photo dreading how I was going to tell my husband.

But now 5 weeks later and a lovely normal reassuring Nuchal scan yesterday, we are in a much better place. Me, both physically and mentally and my husband, well he keeps weeping at the thought of selling the Audi and looking at 7 seater cars.

What nightmares are made of

What nightmares are made of

So now I’m almost 13 weeks pregnant and the all day constant nausea and all evening vomiting has *almost* gone. I have to say weeks 6-9 were unbearable and I began to question if I could really get through this pregnancy at all. (I was once sick 17 times in one day). I had some amazing people around me, supporting me and making me realise that everything was indeed going to be ok.

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Things that really helped when I could barely lift my head off the toilet seat

  • Tropicana (smooth) don’t ask but the combination of the sweet and sour taste meant I was getting some Vitamin C into my system
  • Peanut butter (again smooth) on a buttered bagel
  • Salt and Vinegar crisps BY THE TONNE
  • Nutrimum Bars – these were great in between meal times and  I just kept a stash in my car
  • Hypnobirthing – well technically relaxation MP3s. As you know I’m a massive fan of everything Hollie does and some evenings when my mind was racing with worry and fear I’d pop on her track and within minutes I’d find myself drifting off into a calm sleep
  • Acupuncture – I popped my cherry around week 6 and MY GOD it really did make the most difference to my nausea. Maisie Hill is like some kind of magical mystical Goddess who really understood my body and what was going on. I hardly had to say anything (mainly because I felt so rough) and she just popped needles into certain points on my body. I left feeling floaty and vomit free. She’s also a Doula and an amazing one at that. Check out her website for a wealth of information on all things fertility, pregnancy and birth
  • I treated myself around week 10 to a pregnancy massage as my lower back and pelvis was really beginning to ache. And there’s only woman who I’ll happily strip down to my oldest granny pants for…. Beccy Hands (yes her real name) is also a kick ass Doula and specialises in pregnancy and labour massage. She’s so good she can tell me which shoulder I carry my heavy rucksack on and how I stand/lean when attending births
  • And finally SLEEP. Like mega naps, any time any place. During my lunch break I’d find myself having a quick doze before starting a clinic, around kids tea time (there was a lot of eating in front of the tv whilst I snoozed) and then heading off to bed as soon as my husband was home and sleeping all night. Sleep really did help with the nausea.

So there you have it, the secret is out (I even managed to fool my white witch of a mother at my brother’s 40th by pouring my wine into my sisters glass). I’m already embracing the maternity clothes (Topshop dungarees are amazing) and our house is buzzing with who can come up with the most ridiculous baby names. As if I didn’t have enough to do with writing my book, I’ll be blogging about this pregnancy at regular intervals, so please join me on this exciting journey.

xx

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Anna (aka Mother Pukka) and Mae

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Despite being a copywriter, I have never quite been able to put down in words our route to procreation. It wasn’t due to overwhelming emotions, simply a wish to do this incredible life process some kind of justice. So, I hope this doesn’t fall short of the mark.

We went through it all: miscarriages, early 28-week labour (which was luckily halted with lots of drugs) and the birth of my daughter Mae through non-elective C-section on 21 June 2013 at 8.37pm. Oh and this all happened in Amsterdam – where we lived for the past five years. We had the sex, we had the drugs (lots of them while giving birth) but the rock ‘n’ roll was fast replaced by the Cbeebies theme tune.

Here’s the good, the bad and the (not-so) ugly of what went down:

The good

After a number of miscarriages, ranging from early-on to 17-weeks, my husband and I mentally distanced ourselves from project procreation. As a close friend recommended, we ‘just started bonking with intent’ instead of ‘trying for a baby’.

It wasn’t about making a ‘bean’ or ‘peanut’, it was about being together as a family – even if it was just the two of us. So we just hung out and despite having a miscarriage only three weeks before, I somehow defied the odds and got pregnant with Mae on a holiday to Belves in the South of France. We considered calling Mae ‘Belves’ so delusionally happy we were.

And she hung in there – until 28 weeks.

The bad

I was throwing up in an IKEA disabled toilet with someone ramming on the door saying I wasn’t disabled and should get out of there. I had food poisoning from a hipster haunt in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and I was sobbing at the yellow and blue-hued nightmare I was in.

After a distressing journey home (still clutching that IKEA baby lamp that seemed so essential at the time), I started to get painful stomach cramps, which fast became contractions. I kept doing the maths – “she’s 28 weeks, she’s 28 weeks” running on loop through my mind – and Googled everything from ‘what are her chances of survival’ and ‘can food poisoning lead to early labour?’ to ‘what’s in a hospital bag?’.

The (not-so) ugly

After a tense 24 hours in hospital, being pumped full of drugs to slow the contractions, Mae luckily decided to stay-put for the rest of my pregnancy. I was house-bound and rested-up for the majority of it but that didn’t matter – every day she was inside was a bonus.

Because she was a breach baby, the midwife decided it was safest to deliver her by C-section. I remember coming in at 8am on the 21 of June to the OLVG (Onze Lieve Vrouwen Gaasthuis) hospital in the heart of Amsterdam and not knowing when we’d have our little girl – it was like booking in for a regular hospital/hair appointment. The nurses kept saying ‘someone will be with you shortly’. As in, someone will be with you to deliver your baby? Or someone will be with you to do a check-up? It was all rather surreal.

At about 7pm after no food or water for 11 hours, I remember saying to my husband, “I either want a sandwich or a baby” – I was literally on the edge and it looked like we were going to have to wait until the next day to have her – the suspense was killing me.

But at 8pm, as we were huddled up on a hospital bed watching Family Guy in a pre-parental daze, the nurse came in and said, “are you ready to have a baby?”  I really wasn’t, I had mentally switched off and couldn’t believe we’d have Mae with us in half an hour. But I was whisked off to theatre all the same, with the husband in hot pursuit, donning blue scrubs in a mad panic.

The C-section took literally three minutes and there was a genuine sense of calm in the room – it wasn’t the medical harsh environment I’d expected – they even turned the lights down when she came out. Mae emerged from behind the green curtain mewling like a cat, while my husband and I broke down with relief that our ‘bean’, our ‘peanut’ had finally come to fruition after so many painful false starts. The moment she latched on in the recovery room? There literally are no words. No words that would ever do it justice.

Check out what Mother Pukka thinks about parenting and all that jazz over at motherpukka.co.uk (it’s absolutely bloody hilarious) and follow her on twitter @mother_pukka

Count The Kicks

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The importance of your unborn baby’s well-being whilst your pregnant is paramount for any mum-to-be. So keeping a close eye on daily movements is essential to ensure you’re baby is well. But what if one day your baby hadn’t moved as much as usual. What if you were 38 weeks pregnant and a friend reassured you that it was probably because the baby didn’t have much room, or that it was a sign you could be going into labour. What would you do? Count The Kicks is a UK based charity that aims to educate mums on the importance of a baby’s movements and to help them work with healthcare professionals to bring home a healthy baby. Chief Executive Elizabeth Hutton explains why the charity was first set up and what should mums and midwives know about fetal movements in pregnancy.

Tell me about Count The Kicks charity and why it was started. 

Count the Kicks is trying to empower mums to be with knowledge and confidence during pregnancy by raising awareness of babys movements and their importance in a baby’s wellbeing. We were founded in 2009 by Sophia Mason following the tragic stillbirth of her daughter Chloe. Chloe’s movements had begun to slow down leading up to her due date but Sophia was led to believe this was normal, but what she’d read on the internet and in magazines. When she called her midwife, it was too late. Chloe was stillborn 3 days before her due date. Determined to ensure other mums did not experience the same heartache, Sophia set up Count the Kicks to raise awareness of how important fetal movements really are.

What is the aim of the charity and how can Mums-to-be access support and information? 

We want mums to feel confident enough to call their midwife if they notice any change in their baby’s regular pattern of movement. We produce leaflets, stickers and posters that we send to midwives so many mums will be able to access the information straight from their midwife. Our leaflets are also in the mum to be Bounty Packs that mums can collect at 20 weeks. Alternatively all our information is available online at countthekicks.org.uk or on our Facebook page facebook.com/ukcountthekicks

There still seems to be a lot of conflicting advice about what’s normal for baby’s movements eg ’10 kicks a day’ ‘baby slowing down before labour’ ‘movements less when there’s not much room’. How can we as midwives make sure women are receiving the correct advice about fetal movements?

The current guidelines say that a woman should report any change in her baby’s regular pattern of movement. There is no set number a woman needs to get to so counting to 10 is unhelpful. Movements vary from 4 – 100 every hour and fetal movement is completely dependent on what a mum perceives to be her baby’s movements. One woman may feel every little roll and movement, while another may only feel the big kicks, how can we be telling both these women they need to feel the same number? They need to know what they see as their baby’s regular pattern and then they can report if they notice any change in that. It is important for mums to also be aware that babies do not slow down as they reach the end of pregnancy.

As a midwife I always reassure women that they never waste my time by calling if they haven’t felt their baby move. What advice do you give women if they have any concerns. 

Much the same! We always advise women to report any change in movement to their midwife. We want them to be reassured that midwives would much rather see them a hundred times and have to keep telling them the baby is fine, than to see them once and have to deliver devastating news. So if you are ever worried about your baby you should contact your midwife. They are there to help you. 

If you had a pot of gold – how and where would you use the money to help families affected by losing a baby?

Our aim is to prevent stillbirth, we would love for no one to need bereavement support. If I had a pot of god I would love to continue to provide our leaflets but also be able to provide our wristbands free to all mums to be. This would cost approximately £1 million pounds a year so we would need a big pot! But we hope to one day make that a reality. 

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If my blog was my third child…..

it would be in therapy for emotional neglect. I briefly popped over here a few weeks back and it looked a bit sad and hadn’t been updated for ages and I thought ‘oh god I better do something about that’, and then life took over and another week went by and well here I am feeling guilty. Mothers guilt, bloggers guilt its all the same.

To be honest I’m still dreaming of the amazing holiday my husband and I went on to Rio for 10 WHOLE CHILD FREE DAYS. Sorry I just have to sometimes say it out loud to really believe it ever happened, My tan has faded and I’m back wearing jeans. The kids are being their usual selves, my husband and I are arguing about the bathroom tiles and babies continue to be born. Basically life goes on.

But the main reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m writing a book. So kind of quite a big deal except it’s all so surreal I can’t quite believe it’s ever going to happen. But it has to happen because I’ve said I’ll do it. Gulp. I have an agent and a publisher and I can now add writer to my list of credits – mother, wife, midwife, fish finger server, monthly nit checker oh the list could go on.

‘So how the hell is she going to do all those things AND write a book?’ I hear you cry. Well some things have to change but the main thing is I’m going to be writing less for this blog. But fear not lovers of birth stories because that weekly feature will still go on.

A while back I put a shout out on twitter for more birth stories as my file was running on low and you know that’s not good, and a whole load of you sent me your AMAZING stories. If I haven’t replied or thanked you it’s not because I haven’t received them or I’m being rude, it’s because I got sent so many (about 80!) and I’m still going through them all. I never edit or cut your beautiful stories but I love to read them all before publishing them. So thank you every single one of you. And if you still want to send in your story all you have to do is email it to gasandairblog@gmail.com with some photos too. It doesn’t have to be be of the actual birth just of your lovely selves and maybe with your baby. What ever you feel comfortable with.

Part of the book will contain some of the incredible birth stories from this blog, don’t ask me how I’m going to pick which ones as it’s going to be so difficult to chose. But they will vary as I want to cover all types of birth. So keep your eyes peeled for an email from me later on this year if your’s is the chosen one.

I’ll also keep updating my gas&air Facebook page which you can like here to see any articles or links which I think you might find interesting.

So for now I will be taking a sabbatical from gasandair and focus my writing skills in my book, see it still seems so weird to think I will have a published book out sometime in 2017.

Watch this space x

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